Guest Op-Ed: Prescription Drug Prices Are Hurting Americans, Here’s The Solution

Jesse Grady

This is a guest op-ed on the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act by Jesse Grady, former Texas Republican National Committee (RNC) staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of all RedState front page contributors or editorial staff. ~ Ed.

While many Americans fully recover after their visits to the emergency room, for a lot of folks, their bank accounts still feel the pain due to the rising costs of prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies have doubled or quadrupled the price of life-saving prescriptions, leaving many people who rely on these drugs to live with two fatal options: to go without filling their prescription or to ration their medications.

Americans playing Russian roulette with their medications has prompted Congress to act, and a recently introduced bill is the solution to curbing prescription drug prices. In July, Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden introduced the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act. If signed into law, the bipartisan legislation would shield Americans, especially those on fixed incomes, from high prescription drug costs by capping out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare beneficiaries and providing needed oversight on drug manufacturers. Those manufacturers would be mandated to justify their price increases and penalized for increasing their prices faster than the rate of inflation. These reforms make it difficult for the pharmaceutical companies to price gouge, and, as a result, would lead to lower prescription drug costs.

The bill would come as a relief to the one in four Americans who struggle to pay for their prescription drugs. It’s a growing problem that cuts through the partisan divide, which is why over 90 percent of voters agree that Congress should take action to lower prescription drug prices.

As a conservative, I understand why some legislators may be hesitant to have the government intervene in the free market. The prescription drug market, however, is not a free market. In fact, it’s the lack of market competition that has resulted in steep drug prices. For example, three pharmaceutical companies own 90 percent of the global insulin market; and, without competition, they were able to double the price of insulin over the past few years.

One would expect the price of insulin to decrease over time, considering it has been around since 1921. This is a clear example of crony capitalism.

The excessive concentration of life-saving products in the pharmaceutical industry has led to the most odious display of price gouging. This has resulted in the tragic practice of drug rationing, and an example of this can be seen recently with an18-year-old in Utah. Sadly, this individual secretly rationed his insulin supply after the cost increased to $800 a month. His parents caught him in time, but others weren’t as fortunate. Another example of drug rationing took place in Minnesota, where a parent found her 21-year old dead because he tried to extend his insulin supply.

These cases are heartbreaking—and, worse, these parents aren’t the only ones who have lost a loved one due to the high costs of insulin.

This issue is not about conservative or liberal philosophies of government, for both Democrats and Republicans agree that the first principle of government is to protect its citizens. This is an issue about an industry that is sitting on life-saving drugs, knowing that its customers have no other choice but to pay whatever cost for its products.

The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act would protect everyday Americans, including parents and retirees on fixed incomes, from price gouging pharmaceutical conglomerates. Thankfully, Texans have representatives in Congress who know this and support lowering prescription drug prices, like Senator John Cornyn, who called out the industry’s crony capitalism in a Congressional hearing.

With Senator Cornyn’s support of Senators Grassley and Wyden’s bill, our nation will take another step in the right direction for providing critical oversight of the pharmaceutical industry and finally put an end to soaring prescription drug prices.